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Reading program connects Team Ramstein with local kindergarten

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Megan M. Beatty
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Derek France, 3rd Air Force commander, volunteered at Villa Winzig, a local German kindergarten, to read books for an 86th Airlift Wing Host Nation Office grassroots community outreach program, Oct. 13, 2022.

The program aims to enhance relations within the local community and introduce the English language to German children at an early age by hosting volunteers from the base on a monthly basis.

Reading with Villa Winzig began in 2009 as a unique way for members of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to get involved in the community. However, the program recently expanded to include two other local kindergartens.

“Relationships are built at a grassroots level,” said France. “We can have strategic programs in place and senior leaders can stand in front of a camera and smile, but the reality is our partnerships are built on years of cooperation and trust. This is something we, and our partners in Rhineland-Pfalz, are investing in because it will pay dividends for years down the road.”

Susanne Christmann, Villa Winzig kindergarten director, explained the reading program and introducing English during early childhood education is unique to Rhineland-Pfalz. While introducing English at this level is unique, many other kindergartens participate in a country-wide initiative to learn about neighboring countries and cultures.

“It is very nice having volunteers here once a month – it is perfect,” said Christmann. “Who are our neighbors here though? Americans are our neighbors in Kaiserslautern, Spangdahlem and even Baumholder. The children learn not only English vocabulary, but also the grammar and how it is spoken through the program.”

The kindergarten promotes learning foreign languages at a young age since some of their students also come from Turkey and Russia. Caroline Moor, Villa Winzig kindergarten ambassador coordinator and native English speaker from the United Kingdom, said many of the students have benefited from the reading program and hearing multiple languages while at the kindergarten and at home.

“We need to make sure that kids as young as two and three are aware there are other languages out there,” said Moor. “Bringing English with an American accent to them here, in a secure environment with people they know and trust, is great. Some children are closed off to the idea because it is unfamiliar to them. On the contrary, we have students that seem to embrace it from the get-go and are able to have dialog in English.”

Any active duty service member, civilians and dependents from Ramstein are encouraged to volunteer. Members who are interested in volunteering should contact the Host Nation office at host.nations@us.af.mil.